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Solar Power Rundown for Wednesday, March 17

Posted by Adam Sewall In Wednesday, March 17 2010 under: Solar Power Info, Solar Power Rundown

Alright, kids -- Happy St. Patrick's Day! We know you're all itching to get off work and head for a pint, a plate of cabbage and some sweet St. Patty's Day schwag. But bear with us, as there's plenty of interesting solar energy news stories today, including: new developments in Colorado's solar garden plan; plans for a giant solar power installation in Taiwan, courtesy of Suntech; and a new mash-up between a bix-box home improvement retailer and a California solar installation firm.

First up, in finance and investing news, Wall Street is these days favoring coal over solar energy, via Bloomberg. The metric? The world's biggest coal producer, Peabody Energy Corp. (NYSE:BTU), is rated a "buy" by 79 percent of analysts, while only 44 percent have a similar rating for solar thin-film maker First Solar (NASDAQ:FSLR). With Congress bogged down in heated healthcare debates, the prospect of comprehensive climate bill is barely a pixel on the radar -- especially ahead of mid-term elections in November. Seems we may have to wait a bit longer for a price on carbon. Thoughts?

PPL Utilities customers in Pennsylvania who want to buy solar energy system cannot combine the utility's new solar rebate with the state's Sunshine Solar Rebate program, according to a new decision by PA officials. Via Sunpluggers: "In some cases, the rebate and tax-credit combination could have made a solar-electric system virtually free. The state's decision now sets up a situation in which consumers can choose between the two rebates, with most buyers of smaller systems benefiting more from the utility's offer and larger systems from the state's rebate."

Colorado solar installers have misgivings about the state's plan for community solar gardens, according to the Boulder Daily Camera. A bill, sponsored by Rep. Claire Levy (D-Boulder), would allow individuals who otherwise couldn't install rooftop solar panels -- like renters and people with shady roofs -- to benefit from collective solar installations. What could possibly be wrong with that? It turns out that, as originally structured, the provision would classify solar gardens as a "community-based project." Under Colorado law, such projects are granted a multiplier -- that is, every 1 kilowatt (kW) of "community-based" solar energy is actually counted as 1.5 kW when tallying a utility's renewable energy obligation. Other states, like New Jersey and Massachusetts, have used multipliers to incentivize the use of solar equipment that's manufactured in state. Long story, short: some members of the Colorado Solar Energy Industries Association (CoSEIA) worry that, as currently structured, the solar gardens plan would (1) favor large-scale projects, which are typically won by big, out-of-state installation companies, and (2) result in fewer installed solar kWs than might otherwise be the case. This difference could be as much as 30 mW over the next ten years, according to a figure cited by the Daily Camera.

Related to the above: Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD) in California offers a similar option under their Solar Shares program.

Suntech (NYSE:STP) will supply solar panels for what will be Taiwan's largest solar energy plant, according to a press release. At 4.7 megawatts, the planned installation will double the island's installed solar generation capacity.

In December we relayed news that Akeena Solar (NASDAQ:AKNS) will sell its solar panels at Lowe's. Now, it seems, Akeena will also offer solar installation services for Lowe's customers, via MarketWatch. The service will be available at 21 locations across California.

Vote Solar, an non-profit industry advocacy group, held their annual fundraiser last night in downtown San Francisco. Stay tuned -- we'll post links to any clips of the evening's speakers.

Also in California solar energy news, University of California, San Deigo (UCSD) recently announced it will receive a $500,000 grant from the California Public Utilities Commission, according to The cash will be used to study ways to improve solar power in cloudy conditions.

And... that'll do it. Enjoy the rest of your Wednesday. See you back here tomorrow.

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